In China, censors can’t bear Winnie the Pooh, block him on social networks
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In China, censors can’t bear Winnie the Pooh, block him on social networks

Authorities did not explain the clampdown on Winnie the Pooh but the self-described “bear of very little brain” has been used in a meme comparing him to portly Chinese President Xi Jinping.

world Updated: Jul 17, 2017 19:05 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Winnie the Pooh,Xi Jinping,Chinese censorship
Winnie the Pooh stickers have been removed from WeChat’s official “sticker gallery” and comments referencing the fictional creature on Weibo turned up error messages.(Shutterstock)

China has banned some images of Winnie the Pooh, a teddy bear with a movie franchise and legions of young fans across the world, which had previously compared the fictional creature with President Xi Jinping.

There was no official statement announcing the ban but particular images and references to the portly bear and the “Chinese leader” have been wiped from China’s Twitter-like Weibo and WeChat, a mobile phone app used by millions here.

News website Quartz reported: “A July 15 post on a public account on WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, said that Winnie the Pooh content would be taken down due to its resemblance to a Chinese leader, citing China’s Ministry of Culture as the source of the information.”

That post has been taken down since then and an earlier link to the announcement in Chinese now leads to an error message.

“Posts including the Chinese name of the fictional bear were censored on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, over the weekend, while a collection of animated gifs featuring the bear were removed from social messaging app WeChat,” the Financial Times reported on Monday.

Over the weekend, comments mentioning the ban and questioning the move by the censors were targeted and removed.

The latest around of censorship could be part of pre-emptive steps to remove any kind of criticism, even if light-hearted, against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) as it goes into a huddle before the 19th Party Congress to be held in Beijing later this year.

This isn’t the first time that Winnie has been targeted in China.

The UK-based Global Risks Insight, which researches and analyses political risks worldwide, said in a report in 2016 that the bear had faced censorship in China.

“As Xi Jinping continues consolidating power, China’s media is facing increasing censorship. While this statement is not a novel one in itself, the manner and severity of recent censorship is. Behold China’s most censored photo of 2015, one that shows Xi Jinping during a parade and a children’s toy car sporting Winnie the Pooh,” the publication said in a report last year.

“This picture was widely shared on Chinese social media before the powers that be moved swiftly to block it. The friendly yellow bear elicited a decidedly unfriendly response; indeed the Chinese government went so far as to add ‘Winnie the Pooh’ to its internet search blacklist,” the report added.

The ongoing clean-up isn’t restricted to Winnie.

On Monday, it was announced that China's anti-pornography office had closed 73 illegal live streaming platforms in the first half of this year and imposed life bans on 1,879 live streamers who severely violated regulations.

“From January to June, more than 120,000 accounts were cleared and 38,179 accounts that violated regulations were blocked,” official Xinhua news agency quoted the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications as saying.

First Published: Jul 17, 2017 12:25 IST